Last Thursday, December 14, marked 11 years since the second deadliest school shooting in American history. In 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children aged six and seven, along with six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.
In the aftermath of the massacre, attempts were made to bring comprehensive gun reform to the United States but ultimately failed to gain enough support. Now, 11 years later, the question remains as to whether America has learned anything from the events at Sandy Hook.
After first killing his mother in their home, Lanza traveled to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he entered with an AR-15, two semiautomatic pistols, and several hundred rounds of ammunition. In the space of five minutes, Lanza fired 154 rounds, taking the lives of 20 first-graders and six members of staff, including the school principal. Upon arrival, authorities discovered Lanza had died from a self-inflicted shotgun wound.
In a combination of grief, shock, sadness, horror, and anger, the events at Sandy Hook that day sparked a national outcry for change. They triggered a renewed debate around Second Amendment rights across America. Two days after the massacre (December 16), President Barack Obama attended a vigil in Newtown for the victims. Offering the “love and prayers of a nation,” the former President praised first responders and staff at the school, assuring the community that as President, he would “use whatever power this office holds” to prevent another tragedy like Sandy Hook.
In January 2013, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced an Assault Weapons Ban to the 113th Congress, which if passed, would “ban the import, sale, manufacture, transfer or possession of a semiautomatic assault weapon.” The bill was ultimately defeated three months later by a vote of 40 in favor to 60 opposed, despite a Democratic majority in the Senate. In another attempt to introduce gun control legislation, a bipartisan proposal was brought to the Senate by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Pat Toomey. It implemented criminal background checks for firearms purchased online and at gun shows. Despite receiving the support of a clear majority, Senate rules require a super-majority of 60 votes for a bill to pass, so with only 54 votes, the bipartisan legislation fell short, and the proposal failed.
Undeterred by the government’s inability to enact legislative change, the families of those who died on December 14, 2012, founded Sandy Hook Promise. The non-profit organization seeks to honor the victims of gun violence and educate communities about knowing the signs to prevent further atrocities. Alongside the almost 10 million others who have already done so, the Sandy Hook Promise encourages people to “Make The Promise” to protect children across the US from gun violence. Their work has included the production of the harrowing yet powerful PSA ‘Back To School Essentials,’ which has received over 80 million views and highlights the harsh reality of going to school in today’s America. Without progress in Washington D.C., organizations like Sandy Hook Promise are pivotal to influencing change on the issue of gun violence.
The Sandy Hook massacre remains the second deadliest school shooting in US history, after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, where undergraduate student Seung-Hui Cho killed 33 and injured 23 more.
But have any lessons been learned? School shootings are now part and parcel of attending school in America during the 21st century. With lockdown procedures and active shooter drills practiced in 95% of schools across the country, gun violence is an epidemic in the United States, and there is no indication that it will stop anytime soon.
Since Sandy Hook, there have been several school shootings. In February 2018, gunman Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and injured a further 17. Four years later, in May 2022, 19 children and two teachers were fatally shot and 17 wounded at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This year alone (2023), there have been three major school shootings across America, which left six dead at The Covenant School in Nashville, three dead at Michigan State University, and three dead at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
In a statement on Thursday (December 14), President Biden acknowledged the 11th anniversary of Sandy Hook with a message of reflection and solidarity with the community of Newtown, Connecticut.
Marking the passage of time, he recognized that those 20 first-graders whose lives were taken that day would now be seniors in high school. Biden added that now, over a decade later, it remains a “national tragedy” that the “nation’s gun violence epidemic is still not solved.” Accepting that it was still “not enough,” he discussed his Administration’s implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, establishing enhanced background checks, amongst other actions to prevent gun violence and save lives. The President urged Congress to do its job and “use common sense” by taking action to pass universal background checks and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
According to recent polling from the Pew Research Center, six in ten US adults believe in stricter gun control laws. Moreover, a third of parents with at least one child under the age of 18 have admitted to feeling “very or extremely worried” about the likelihood of a shooting ever happening at their children’s school. However, there are huge disagreements about how to address the issue on opposing sides of the aisle. While 85% of Democrats support the banning of assault weapons, 57% of Republicans oppose this proposal.
The events on December 14, 2012, shocked the world and left many questioning if not now, when? If the horrific and brutal murder of 20 six- and seven-year-olds was not enough to bring about gun reform, what would? Now, 11 years later, after numerous school shootings and a lack of legislative change, it is evident that America has failed to learn from the events of its past.
Edited by: Kaiyah Ellison
Photo credit: Marcus Yam/The New York Times
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2 months, 1 week ago by kalili2100
America will never learn. Boondocks said it best, "We dont quit because we're wrong, we just keep doing the wrong thing until it comes out right!"
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